by Tom LaMarra
The Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, which represents horsemen at Parx Racing, is back under the umbrella of the Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, the parties said Dec. 14.
The Pennsylvania THA was a founding member of the THA but left the organization more than 10 years ago after a dispute. The horsemen’s group then became a National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association affiliate for several years before going out on its own.
The THA now has affiliates in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania in the Mid-Atlantic region and Northeast, and Illinois in the Midwest.
The two other Thoroughbred tracks in Pennsylvania–Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course and Presque Isle Downs & Casino–are represented by the Pennsylvania HBPA.
"We are very pleased to have decided to rejoin the THA and its member horsemen’s groups," Pennsylvania THA president Sal DeBunda said. "While we have achieved great results here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regarding horse racing and benefits for our horsemen, we believe that many of the current and future issues impacting the racing industry will be dealt with regionally, rather than just in Pennsylvania.
"We have admired the strong and respected leadership provided for horsemen by the THA in recent years, and we have appreciated their consultation with us on many of the issues affecting our membership."
THA chairman and chief executive officer Alan Foreman, who also serves as chief counsel for the Maryland THA, indicated earlier this year there was a chance the Pennsylvania group may rejoin. Foreman and others are actively working to devise a regional racing plan that could include resurrection of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships—known as the MATCH series—which used a series of stakes at various tracks to reward owners and trainers.
"Obviously we are all very pleased to be reuniting with our colleagues in Pennsylvania," Foreman said. "We have been collaborating for more than a year on the many difficult issues confronting our industry, and appreciate their desire to work with us regionally and nationally.
"The Pennsylvania THA has been instrumental in the transformation of Parx as a major racing center, and their leadership has resulted in a major renovation of the backstretch, expanded health and benevolence programs for backstretch workers, a model retirement and aftercare program for our horses, expanded breeding incentives, the doubling of graded stakes at Parx, and an effective voice for horsemen in Harrisburg.
"They bring much to the table for us, and it is a good fit."
The Pennsylvania THA has about 3,800 members. Parx formerly was called Philadelphia Park, and before that Keystone Race Track.
Horsemen at the track were instrumental in negotiations on the revenue splits contained in the 2004 law that authorized slot machines at Pennsylvania racetracks and non-racing facilities. Racing receives a cut of the revenue from non-racing casinos in the state.